Dominican Republic Calls Haiti a Threat, Cracks Down on Migrants

Dominican Republic Calls Haiti a Threat, Cracks Down on Migrants

The Dominican Republic is requiring hundreds of thousands of Haitians to register their whereabouts inside the country, saying the measure is to protect itself from the gang violence and unrest rattling its neighbor.

On Monday, Interior Minister Jesus Vasquez described Haiti as his country’s “principal threat,” as he inaugurated the first of 38 migrant-registration offices, in the border town of Dajabon.

“The Dominican Republic cannot allow foreigners to arrive in this country and not have any control over them,” Vasquez said at the event. “We have to know how many there are, who they are, and where they are.”

Vasquez said Haitians who want to travel from one municipality to the other will also be required to inform authorities about their movements.

The two nations share the island of Hispaniola but are worlds apart. The Dominican Republic has one of the fastest-growing economies in the region and a thriving tourism industry. Haiti is caught in one of the world’s longest recessions and has been wracked by kidnappings, gang violence and political instability in the wake of the July 7 murder of President Jovenel Moise.  

Joseph Cherubin, the executive director of Mosctha, a Dominican non-profit that represents Haitian migrant laborers, said the crackdown is exacerbating Dominican “xenophobia and racism” by playing into fears that Haitians are a nexus of crime. 

“Haitians are being denied medical services and people won’t rent homes to them,” Cherubin said. 

Cherubin said Haitian laborers play a key role in Dominican agriculture, construction and parts of the service industry, and what they need is a clear way to work legally.

The registration requirement is the latest in a series of moves by President Luis Abinader aimed at the estimated 220,000 to 300,000 Haitians living in the Dominican Republic.  

In February, Abinader announced the country would fortify its 234-mile border with Haiti. Last week, the government said it was suspending a student-visa program for Haitians and would “audit” the immigration status of foreigners living in the country. 

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.